But he has company in the form of some more consistent and explosive young talent.
That is why, at UPI, we have ranked our top 25 tight ends for your 2017 fantasy football draft kit.
SCROLL DOWN FOR TOP 25
For clarity, here are some of the best tight ends to look out for in five separate tiers, as well as some unheralded sleepers.
HALL OF FAME
1. Rob Gronkowski, 3. Travis Kelce
Yes, Gronkowski is an All-World talent, but you can't count on him for weekly scoring if he can stay on the field. Last year, "Gronk" started just six games. Gronkowski is a fantasy football lottery ticket. When he plays in at least 10 contests, he has proven to be unstoppable and can provide a weekly edge. This fact alone keeps him in the top spot, but it is indeed a risk as he has a first or second round price tag.
This year I'm putting both Jordan Reed and Travis Kelce in Gronkowski's tier. Reed played in just 12 games last year, but secured 66 catches for 686 yards and six scores. I like him in the later rounds and he should be leaned on even more this season for the Washington Redskins. Washington watched two 1,000-yard wide receivers depart in free agency this offseason. Although the franchise did add Terrelle Pryor, expect Reed to demand plenty of looks from contract-year Kirk Cousins.
Kelce was an All-Pro for the first time in his career last year. I'm expecting him to do it again. The Chiefs lost Jeremy Maclin this offseason and Tyreek Hill still hasn't proven he can be the No. 1 option for a full season. Kelce will be on the field every week (he hasn't missed a game in three seasons) and will likely be Alex Smith's top read. Kelce has at least 103 receptions in each of his last two seasons. Don't be afraid to pull the trigger around the same time you see Reed come off of the board.
Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen didn't get a new contract, but he also didn't hold out, as some reports suggested he would. He's entering his 11th season and has never been more consistent. Olsen has started every game since the 2012 season and has three consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 yards. He also has at least 104 targets in five consecutive seasons. Although the Panthers went all-in on offensive talent in the 2017 NFL Draft, Cam Newton knows where the most trusted set of hands will be at all times in this unit. Draft Olsen with confidence as a top-5 option at the position. He also has enough value to be deployed as a WR/TE in deeper leagues.
Tyler Eifert has no trouble finding the end zone, but he does has trouble stepping onto the field. The young Cincinnati Bengals playmaker has never started 16 games in a season since entering the league in 2013. But he does have 20 touchdowns in 37 appearances. In 2015, Eifert scored 13 touchdowns in 13 games and also had 74 targets. Put simply, the Bengals need Eifert for offensive consistency and success. That should tell you enough when wondering what his role is in the offense when he does make it to the field. Eifert is still a top-6 option for me based on raw talent alone. But, like "Gronk," if you do draft him, be sure to pick up a secondary option later in your draft or keep an eye on the waiver wire.
SCROLL DOWN FOR TOP 25
Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph had a great training camp. In his first year with Sam Bradford, Rudolph experienced a huge jump in targets. Last year, Rudolph had 83 catches for 840 yards and seven receptions on 132 looks. That target number was 59 more looks than he had in 2015 and he played 16 games in both seasons. Expect a lot of looks again this season for Rudolph and similar production.
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz once caught passes from Bradford. But he doesn't need that particular gunslinger to stay productive. Ertz has back-to-back seasons with at least 100 targets and 75 receptions. I'm expecting another big year for him here, despite the Eagles adding two veteran wide receivers in free agency. If Ertz was more of a proven scoring threat he would be in a higher tier.
JUST NAPPING [EARLY TO MID-ROUND SLEEPERS]
It would be tough to find a tight end who has been aided by better quarterback play than Martellus Bennett. His latest move? Going from Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Although Rodgers has plenty of other options in this offense, it has been a long time since he had a tight end of Bennett's caliber. Bennett has at least 73 targets in every season since 2012. He should see plenty of looks from Rodgers here, but the other options in this offense put him on the edge of a TE1 in shallow leagues. He could be a great streaming play in deeper leagues that don't require starting a tight end.
DRIFTING OFF [MID TO LATE-ROUND SLEEPERS]
|1||Rob Gronkowski||New England Patriots||9|
|2||Jordan Reed||Washington Redskins||5|
|3||Travis Kelce||Kansas City Chiefs||10|
|4||Greg Olsen||Carolina Panthers||11|
|5||Delanie Walker||Tennessee Titans||8|
|6||Tyler Eifert||Cincinnati Bengals||6|
|7||Kyle Rudolph||Minnesota Vikings||9|
|8||Jimmy Graham||Seattle Seahawks||6|
|9||Zach Ertz||Philadelphia Eagles||10|
|10||Martellus Bennett||Green Bay Packers||8|
|11||Hunter Henry||Los Angeles Chargers||9|
|12||Eric Ebron||Detroit Lions||7|
|13||Jack Doyle||Indianapolis Colts||11|
|14||Cameron Brate||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||11|
|15||Julius Thomas||Miami Dolphins||11|
|16||Jason Witten||Dallas Cowboys||6|
|17||Austin Hooper||Atlanta Falcons||5|
|18||C.J. Fiedorowicz||Houston Texans||7|
|19||O.J. Howard||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||11|
|20||Jared Cook||Oakland Raiders||10|
|21||Antonio Gates||Los Angeles Chargers||9|
|22||Evan Engram||New York Giants||8|
|23||David Njoku||Cleveland Browns||9|
|24||Dwayne Allen||New England Patriots||9|
|25||Zach Miller||Chicago Bears||9|